We know what to expect from our internship (actual work), but what do firms expect of interns? Is it extensive accounting expertise? Knowing the ins and outs of conducting an audit or preparing a tax return? Well that couldn’t hurt, but the answer has nothing to do with having all the knowledge in the world. Firms are simply looking for a great attitude and a willingness to learn.
The first week of my internship was the most stressful. It was the week of training. It was not difficult or demanding by any means (in fact, it was definitely the easiest week), but because I had never been exposed to any corporate taxation, I was overwhelmed and worried about my performance during my internship. I quickly realized that while knowing more about taxes prior to interning would have been a great foundation, it didn’t set me back in any way. The knowledge I gained from hands-on training was more than I could have ever learned in the classroom.
Your internship will be challenging and demanding. You will be asked to work long hours and even weekends. Never ever complain. Because we lack in the technical piece as interns, it is important to go above and beyond in every other aspect of work. It’s a good idea to prepare for a project by studying the client assigned and asking the Senior what is expected of you. Also, make sure you try to understand the task at hand to know where it fits into the big picture. Always have a pen and paper ready when given instructions. Ask lots of questions and don’t get bogged down when you make a ton of mistakes! …And you will make a ton of mistakes (it’s expected really). Don’t worry though, you should be making fewer mistakes as your internship progresses.
It’s also important to note that being over-eager is simply obnoxious. Your Seniors are crazy busy and asking them questions every five minutes will not go over well. It’s good practice to do as much as you can and have a list of questions ready when you check in. Communicate your progress and follow instructions. Don’t ask the same question twice.
Firms don’t expect interns to know everything from day one. Instead, they look for interns that have a desire to learn and demonstrate a great work ethic. Even if you are asked to do something menial, do it with a smile on your face. 🙂